5 Hurdles that Scrum Masters Commonly Face
By Ridhi Chhabra
Agile has gained a significant track and has been adopted by all organizations. Agile Methodology today has become one of the most popular and most dynamic project management styles among the software development teams. And Agile is also being adopted by various other functions. It is important to note that Agile can be applied to many types of teams and projects and should not be thought of as limited to engineers or software development projects only.We run all our software delivery through an Agile methodology called Scrum. Scrum is well-recognized amongst engineering teams, but a variety of teams across industries have come to love the Scrum way. From manufacturing to operations and education, businesses of all kinds have used Scrum practices and successfully. As long as your projects involve a concrete product, Scrum can work for you. We have been using Scrum for last few years and have some great success with it. But, still the Team come across various common Scrum Pitfalls.Many organizations are adopting Agile and Scrum for producing higher quality products and services.As per the statistics are given by PwC, “Agile projects are 28% more successful than traditional projects.”Almost three-quarters (71%) of organizations report using Agile approaches sometimes, often, or always. (source: capterra)So why not,Organizations are hiring Scrum Masters for implementing Scrum Framework. It’s a sole responsibility of a Scrum Master to make sure it’s fully implemented and followed by the team in an organization.Scrum is easy to understand but hard to implementWho is a Scrum Master?The Scrum Master is a champion for a Scrum team. He coaches the team, the product owner, and the business. The Scrum Master is a multitasker were deeply understands the work being done by the team, motivates the team and makes sure that the teams are following the Scrum processes and will also work together with them to continuously improve them.How important is a Scrum Master?Scrum Master also ranks on the top of the hierarchy on most of the Agile or Scrum Process, with an eye towards a better understanding of role and importance, here is a closer look at the Scrum Master roles. 1. Scrum Master plays a vital role in the success of the project, he serves as a glue that can hold the entire project.2. Scrum Master may not participate in daily Scrum meetings but supports the entire team.3. Scrum Master helps in strengthening the Agile development team4. Scrum Master facilitates team meetings, which also includes Daily Stand-up5. Scrum Master aims to deliver the maximum value to the customer.Let’s have a look at the 5 hurdles that Scrum Master commonly face:1. Managing Role ExpectationsMany organizations, as well as the upper management, confuses the role of the Scrum Master with a Project Manager. However, the most important thing that we all should know is that the Scrum Master is a Scrum facilitator for a team as well as an organization.However, sometimes management expectations are different, which makes the life of a Scrum Master little harder. We all need to understand that Scrum Master is a facilitator, a guide, a process follower and most importantly, a Servant Leader.2. Change ResistanceAs per Mike Cohn, it is the social aspect of change that can create resistance, all resistance comes from specific individuals. Teams or departments do not resist changing to Scrum, Individuals do.So, when we talk about Scrum implementations, the Scrum Master is the change agent for the same. It’s a major hurdle faced by a Scrum Master during the implementation. Change Resistance is not a surprise, it’s the most expected reaction whenever a new change is introduced. Tip: Choose a length of the Sprints in such a way that it can resist change.There are many ways for adopting Scrum patterns and overcoming change resistance. You will get that Scrum adopting patterns in my previous article- Patterns For Adopting & Spreading Scrum In Organizations.3. Keeping everything Time-Boxed When we talk about implementing Sprints, every event is supposed to be time-boxed in order to get productive results. For example, the Daily Scrum event should not exceed 15 minutes, but in reality, we see team members start discussing their technical difficulties and the meeting goes longer than the allotted time. It’s one of the most common challenges for any Scrum Master.Well, a funny thing to try to overcome this hurdle is to make the team members stand for 15 minutes. Hide all the chairs! They will eventually get tired and finish up the meeting.4. Handling Urgent Change RequestsScrum Masters follow the rule when implementing Scrum which is to never accept changes within the Sprint. We can handle the change requests at the end of the sprint or at the start of the Sprint but not in between. However, in a practical world, we see Product Owners/Customers/Stakeholders coming up with an urgent change requests or bugs.However, it’s also not good to blindly follow the process without understanding the business and market aspects. It’s always better to communicate, collaborate with all the Stakeholders, replan and then make good decisions.5. Distributed TeamsIt is one of the most common barriers faced by a Scrum Master. When the teams are distributed geographically, there are sometimes delays, network issues, cultural or regional issues, different Time Zones, different working hours, it is always difficult to get everyone connected and collaborate/communicate with everyone.Thanks to all the technologies, applications out there that help us overcome this hurdle whether it’s communication, video conferencing, there are many tools available.Scrum Master also come across the following challenges:1. Scrum Master acts as an admin:Basically, Scrum Master tasks start with booking meetings, scheduling events, taking notes, and inviting people to ceremonies. All these may be the primary function of the Scrum Master and these deals with making the team be effective. The tasks involve various challenges.2. Lack of Agile training for the teams:As the Scrum Master is meant for the team, it’s a responsibility to make sure all your team members have foundational Agile training. This is one of the most problem faced by Scrum Master.To summarize, I would say, these are the just the “Hurdles” commonly faced by Scrum Masters but not the “Blockages”. These obstacles can be jumped over, with good skills, expertise and, experience in Scrum implementations. Keep Learning!
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Essential Qualities of Highly Successful Scrum Masters
By Ridhi Chhabra
Scrum masters are servant leaders and coaches for Agile teams. They help the team in educating and ensuring whether Agile processes are being followed. Scrum Master helps in structuring a high-performing team dynamics, continuous flow, and relentless improvement.Scrum Master role is mainly one of a unique, Agile team member who spends much of his time helping other team members communicate, coordinate, and cooperate, generally he assists the team in meeting their delivery goals.When we talk about Scrum Masters, the basic roles and responsibilities include - being a Scrum Guide and a facilitator. And most importantly, being someone who removes impediments and shields the team from external interferences. Basically, a go-to person if any problem arises during Scrum implementations.Why do we put a Scrum Master in our teams?Scrum Master is a mentor or a coach who makes sure that all the values, principles and procedures are followed properly. They take care of the team and help in removing impediments. A Scrum Master’s work follows basically the principle of self-organization and he/she also plays a mediator role which results in a balance in the work.The mediator role of a Scrum Master benefits in two ways. On the one hand, they are able to protect the team from an aggressive product owner who might have unrealistic demands. As a result, the team doesn’t fully commit to the work.On the other hand, the Scrum Master protects the team from complacency. This means that he or she is constantly encouraging them to learn better and also produce better results.What’s the added value of a Scrum Master?Scrum Master adds value to the Scrum team in several ways. Beyond the coaching and leadership roles, the Scrum Master plays a significant role in handling the administrative role as well, to check through whether the team has proper equipment and environment to perform their tasks. The Scrum Master also checks if all the requirements are up to the mark for meetings, where the open questions are asked, and deadlines are discussed.A Scrum Master ensures an effective communication among the different members of the project. And the team members share the information and knowledge with the client and make sure to follow a healthy environment and a better workflow.However, what makes you a highly successful Scrum Master? Just performing these basic roles and responsibilities? Of course not!Or If you are an HR hiring a Scrum Master, what would you look for in a highly successful Scrum Master?Let’s have a look at 5 essential qualities of highly successful Scrum Masters:1. A Great CoachScrum Masters are the ones who are most knowledgeable when it comes to the understanding of implementing Scrum Framework. It is very important that this Scrum knowledge flows through all levels within the organization.For the team to implement Scrum successfully., Scrum Masters must have strong coaching skills. They should be able to coach team members and explain the “what” to do, “how” to do, “why” to do within the process implementation. They should always work on the team’s motivation and growth.2. Servant LeaderServant leadership means putting other people before yourself. As the name implies- “Servant Leader”, is about the one who would like to serve. It’s not just about being a positional leader (a leader who leads because of higher position). Rather, it’s about being a servant for the team, helping them grow and assisting them in meeting their goals.You can learn more about “Servant Leadership - How To Put Your People Before Yourself” in one of the articles by Forbes.3. Great Communicator & CollaboratorA large part of a Scrum Master’s job involves facilitating events and meetings. In order to do that, it’s very important that a Scrum Master is a great communicator as well as a collaborator.The person-Has to be a very good listenerNeeds to understand the project detailsShould be able to collaborate with team membersMust be able to communicate everything with Product OwnerHas to communicate and collaborate with StakeholdersShould be able to summarize everything to upper management, andMust be able to handle communication as well as collaboration in many different aspects of the project.4. Resolves ConflictsWe know that our Scrum teams comprise of different people. It is a cross-functional and self-organizing team. When people from different cultures, ideas, and working styles start collaborating and start working together, it’s very common to have conflicts. That is when a Scrum Master needs to jump in and resolve the conflicts as early as possible to keep the project going and the team working towards a common goal.5. Problem SolverThe basic responsibility of Scrum Master is to remove impediments. However, if the Scrum Masters themselves are problem solvers, this saves a lot of time. Instead of escalating the problem, they are able to solve it themselves.This is one of the most essential quality, a Scrum Master must have.A few more skills to masterWith respect to the above qualities, the Scrum Master should also have the following skills such as:Daily scrum, sprint planning, sprint demo are the responsibilities of a scrum master.Scrum master should be friendly and communicative, because when the team is moving fast in the process, communication is the effective force which holds the team together.A scrum master needs to forecast the numbers of deliverables can be done in iteration.A scrum master should be expert in estimation and planningHelp individual or team to clarify goals and actions in order to achieve them.Ability to ensure the correct use of scrum process.Ability to shield team from outside distractions and interferences.Have a look at the following Infographic for other qualities of Scrum Master:See where you land yourself with these qualities!Over the years, Scrum has found wide applications in cross-sectoral domains. Scrum masters are in high demand, as companies are increasingly looking for ways to get their projects completed and their products launched in a bid to capture a outsize market.According to LinkedIn’s “Most promising jobs of 2017,” job openings (by year over year growth) for Scrum masters is up 104%, and the career advancement score is 8 out of 10.To conclude, a Scrum Master is expected to perform many roles at one time. They should always balance their leadership, management, and technical skills to achieve their goals.
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Are You Delivering Potentially Shippable Product Each Sprint?
By Ridhi Chhabra
By the end of each iteration, a Scrum team is expected to produce a Potentially Shippable Product. As we know Agile methodologies emphasizes on “Working Software over Comprehensive Documentation”. When we talk about working software, it is both complete and potentially shippable.
Agile methodologies emphasizes on working software which is both complete and potentially shippable due to following 3 reasons:
It encourages feedback
It helps a team gauge it’s progress
It allows the product to ship early if desired
In order to ensure, we are delivering a Potentially Shippable product at the end of the sprint, we must understand what potentially shippable means.
Defining Potentially Shippable
As per Scrum Inc, a Potentially Shippable Product is the outcome of the Product Backlog Items delivered at each Sprint. Delivering Potentially Shippable Product at each Sprint is essential to the Scrum because when work is divided into simple pieces it can be finished in a short iterations.
As per Mike Cohn, "potentially shippable" and "shippable" are not the same thing. Some large or complex projects will require the use of "release sprint" or "hardening sprint" at the end of a release cycle (say 6 two-week sprints then a 2-week release sprint). The release sprint is not a dumping ground for sloppy work; rather it is a place where some hardening of the system can occur.
Let’s have a look at some of the guidelines here:
Organizations define their own ‘definition of done’ for every product and project. However, there are some guidelines that are applicable for almost all the Scrum projects in most of the organizations.
Potentially Shippable means Tested!
There can be no situation where a product is delivered without being tested. By the end of the Sprint, the delivered product increment needs to be bug free. If needed by the Product Owner, the feature should be a bug free, it can be released to the beta users or the stakeholders to review.
Potentially shippable does not mean cohesive
Just because we know that the product is potentially shippable, this doesn’t mean that people wants us to actually ship it. Many times it takes 2, 3 or more sprints for a feature set to come together to be useful. However, during the Sprints leading up to that point, the team should still strive for a product to be potentially shippable.
The #Scrum team as a whole is responsible for delivering a working increment of the product at the end of each sprint http://t.co/NqnOc7JeUt
— Manifesto (@ManifestoLondon) September 16, 2014
Potentially shippable means integrated
A potentially shippable product doesn’t exist as different collections of source code. On a project, where multiple teams are working, the teams should define the statement of done such that it includes integrating development steams. So, Integration should be done continuously throughout the sprint.
Does Potentially Shippable means Shippable?
Well, when we define the ‘definition of Done’, We want it to be a Potentially Shippable product. This doesn’t mean that it has to be shippable. Whether the product needs to be shipped or not, that’s a decision taken by the Product Owners, or Business Owners.
Hence, Potentially shippable is a state of confidence, that the product delivered at the end of the Sprint, is so Done that it’s Potentially Shippable.
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Patterns For Adopting & Spreading Scrum In Organizations
By Ridhi Chhabra
When we talk about adopting any new framework or methodology, we think about how we can incorporate these changes into our organization. We simply cannot impose any change in our organization and get started with it, there has to be some process or ways to incorporate that. Also, there are some ways to incorporate Scrum changes within our organization. There include five activities in adopting the Scrum successfully:
So to remember, we call it by the acronym ADAPT.
Let’s now talk about the Patterns of Adopting and Spreading a Scrum:
Patterns for Adopting Scrum
Start Small or Go All In
Organizations go ahead with it like a Pilot project, like selecting few team members and implementing Scrum with them, It's a ‘Start Small’ pattern. The other approach can be Go All In, which is like the executives are convinced and want the whole organization to implement in one go.
Reasons to prefer starting small
It’s less expensive
Early success guaranteed
Avoids risks of going all in
Can be done without much change
Reasons to prefer going all in
Avoids problems within different teams
The All-in transition is Quick!
Choosing between the two
As recommended by Mike Cohn, one should always Start Small! It involves less cost, and guaranteed early success. Going all in should be in limited cases, only when it’s a quick need. Also, it involves more cost/money as there are a lot of changes in different departments if required.
Public Display of Agility or Stealth
The next pattern that comes into the picture is whether to Publicize it or not. We can do the Public Display of Agility. In this approach, the organization announces that it is adopting Scrum. This can vary from announcing it in a meeting room to announcing it through the press release.
The other approach is Stealth transition. In this, only team members know they are using Scrum until the project is complete.
Reasons for Public Display of Agility
Everyone knows that team is doing it and they are more likely to be focussed
Operating publicly is a firm statement of commitment
You can solicit organizational support
It sends a powerful message
Reasons for Stealth Transition
A chance to make progress before resistance starts
It keeps pressure off
No one knows until you tell them
If no one knows, no one can tell you to stop
Choosing between the two
As recommended by Mike Cohn, always choose to make a public display of Agility when you are confident and committed to the transition and when you expect a lot of resistance but want to overcome it quickly.
In contrast, choose a quiet approach, when you want to do an experiment using Scrum.
Patterns of adoption:
"Going Through the Scrum Motions as Opposed to Being an Agile Jedi " https://t.co/tpv9kIVxNU @MichaelNir (via @InfoQ)
— Stefan Wolpers (@StefanW) May 16, 2016
Patterns for Spreading Scrum
Getting started with Scrum is one thing, spreading it across the organization is another. Unless you choose an all-in transition, you will need to build upon the successes of the first few teams as you move Scrum to other teams.
There are 3 general patterns given by Mike Cohn that talks about spreading Scrum.
Split and Seed
This talks about taking a team that has begun to be successful with Scrum and using its team members to seed new teams.
It’s typically put to use after the first few teams have successfully implemented and adopted Scrum. By this time, each team member understands how Sprint work and how the ready software is delivered at the end of the sprint.
In Split and Seed pattern, we split one functioning Scrum team into each half of the original team forming the basis of the new team. New people are then added to these split teams to form new Scrum teams.
A large initial team is used to seed as many as four new teams. Collated below are the reasons to prefer Split and Seed pattern.
Add teams more quickly
Each team has someone with Scrum experience to guide them
Grow and Split
The Grow and Split pattern involve adding team members until the team is large enough that it can be comfortably split in two. Immediately after splitting, each of the new teams will probably be on the small end of the desirable size ranging five to nine members. After allowing the new teams one sprint at this reduced size, new members are added until each team becomes a large enough that it can also be split. This pattern repeats until the entire organization has transitioned.
In following cases, you can prefer Grow and Split pattern.
Don’t have to destroy any existing teams
Team members feel more continuity from sprint to sprint
The Third pattern of Spreading Scrum is Internal Coaching. In the organizations, there include types of teams. Some teams excel with the new agile approach, while others struggles. On each team, there exists one identified person who understands and implement Scrum successfully. That person is assigned as a Coach for other teams.
Coaches were given responsibilities to attend sprint meetings, daily scrum each week and coach other teams.
Reasons to prefer Internal Coaching
Well running teams do not need to be Split
Coaches can be selected for new teams
Coaches can move from team to team
Choosing your Pattern!
In general, consider going with Split and Seed pattern, when in a hurry. It is the fastest way of spreading Scrum. However, if the technology doesn’t support moving people among teams, changing the team members can affect the productivity.
The Grow and Split pattern is simply more natural and direct approach. Consider using this approach if there is no sense of urgency as it is less risky.
Internal Coaching can be used on its own, mostly when the group is large enough and when splitting teams are not possible for the projects.
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We’re in Agile, We don’t Plan! Really?
By Ridhi Chhabra
‘We are in Agile, we don’t plan!’ This was one of the most common statements in early Agile implementations. Many people in early Agile implementations took this step, knowing that they were giving up something really valuable. However, there was a natural reaction to this.
This is now considered as a common myth, as planning is a fundamental aspect of Scrum. The Scrum team is committed to working towards the working software delivery with the highest value. To implement this, the team and Product Owner must have an estimate of the feature, cost for development. Intelligibly, a Scrum team is committed to working according to prioritization. Hence, Planning is an essential practice!
In fact, We Plan a Lot!
Sprint starts with an event called Sprint Planning
The next step in planning is when the Scrum team estimates and commits to working towards the delivery of potentially shippable product at the end of the Sprint.
Scrum team comes up with a detailed plan of-
How much are they estimating, that they will complete within the sprint?
How much will be the cost/value/hours of the tasks to be delivered?
Planning happens on an everyday basis
The Daily Scrum for the Scrum Team is to review the progress and refine the plan to meet the Sprint Goal.
Plan on what is to be done
Plan on overcoming the impediments
How successful is your sprint planning? https://t.co/PTyozdqh7L @kbondale looks at 4 common challenges which impact this critical ceremony #agile #pmot #sprintplanning pic.twitter.com/2xS9a0zC34
— Agile Alliance (@AgileAlliance) March 28, 2018
Scrum Teams Own the Plan
In each event, we are “Inspecting and Adapting”, Scrum teams takes the Product Backlog and come up with their plan and create their own Sprint backlog. They create it, inspect it and then adapt it for upcoming sprints and better results.
Sprint Review and Retrospectives are the part of the Plan
The Sprint Review is a collaborative event where the whole team gathers, reviews the product increment created, comes up with a feedback and adapts to make changes. This all is to support the planning of the next Sprint.
The Sprint Retrospective is again a collaborative event to enable and plan for continuous improvement. Team plans to start, stop and continue doing the things in the current process.
Progressively Refine Plans
The Product Backlog should be progressively refined. It should be broken down into small user stories which can be easily implemented as we move along with the project. Eventually, the similar approach is to be taken while planning in Scrum.
Let’s have a look at the advantages of having a progressively refining a plan in Scrum-
It minimizes the time investment:
Planning is important, but it can be time-consuming. The time spent in estimating and planning is best viewed as an investment.
It allows decisions to be made at an optimal time:
Progressively refining the plan helps the team avoid falling into the trap of making too many decisions at the outset of the project.
It allows us to make course changes:
One thing we know, when we are in Agile, that change always happens. Planning enough that we know in general but not all the aspects leaves the team with the flexibility to alter the course as more is learned.
It helps us avoid falling into the trap of believing our plans:
No matter how well we understand the expectations, and that no plan is safe from change. Progressively refining a plan reinforces the idea that even the best plan is subject to change.
So, when next time you say, We’re in Agile, We don’t plan! Really? Think about it!
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